Retiring Sen. Ed Meyer has so many stories that his colleagues in the Senate compared him to Forrest Gump — the character played by Tom Hanks in the film of the same name — during a two-hour tribute Monday.
Meyer has served in legislatures in two different states as a member of two different parties. He was appointed a federal prosecutor by Robert Kennedy in 1964 and worked to put members of New York’s “Five Families” behind bars. He also played tennis at Wimbledon.
These and other stories were recounted Monday as the 80-year-old Guilford Democrat prepared to retire.
“I’m starting to think you’re a little like Forest Gump — you’re just everywhere,” Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said.
Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said lawmakers were making the comparison out of respect.
“We just are in awe of all the things you have done throughout your life. And I want to share, colleagues, with you one other,” he said. “On Saturday during the Kentucky Derby, the topic of polo came up and you can now add to your list that Ed was a former polo player. Who knew?”
Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said Meyer seems to know “everybody in the world.” He had some involvement with the National Hockey League as well.
“We got on the topic of the original six teams of the NHL and Ed says ‘Well, you know, I was the counsel to the New York Islanders’ and I said ‘Well, of course you were. I’m sure you helped found the NHL too,’” Duff said.
More than most lawmakers, Meyer has been willing to demonstrate an impatience with the legislative process. During a Republican filibuster of an environmental bill in 2010, Meyer was called “out of order” after he stood up on the floor of the Senate and called his wife on his cellphone to complain. Meyer is one of the few legislators who has tried to “call the question,” a parliamentary nuclear option to end debate and force a vote.
Meyer thanked his colleagues for the kind words and said he had long sought retire from political life. He said that’s why he and his wife moved to Connecticut from New York.
“I want to just close by referring to some of the things you said about my character — it’s not my fault,” he said, laughing. Meyer, a Yankees fan, recalled when Reggie Jackson was traded to the Yankees.
“The first public statement he made was not about baseball. He said ‘I want to stir the drink.’ And when he said that, I knew that’s what I’ve tried to do all my life and what I’m still trying to do is stir that drink,” Meyer said.
Lawmakers also paid tribute to Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, who is retiring after four years in the Senate.
Meyer who served with Welch on the Judiciary Committee said that Welch’s “intellectual caliber is just something special.” He said it must be very difficult to support seven children on a legislative salary.
“The rigors of this job has become greater and you’re feeling that,” Meyer said.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney called Welch “thoughtful, collegial” and “conscientious.” He said many younger lawmakers struggle with trying to juggle their family, jobs, and elected responsibilities. Looney said Welch made the right call by prioritizing his family.
“But his decision to leave and the loss that will cause for all of us, not just his own caucus, is a sign about how difficult it is to sustain service in the General Assembly for a young, mid-career, professional person with a family,” he said.
Welch’s family couldn’t be there for his good-bye speech, but he said the good news for them is he will be around to read a few more stories and kick a ball. The bad news is he’ll be home a little more to make sure they make their bed, and do their homework, and clean their rooms.
Welch thanked his wife, Elizabeth, for “holding down the fort” while he was serving the public at the Capitol. He promised to stay engaged even though he doesn’t know what that looks like yet.